Category Archive 'Japan'
23 Jun 2019

Japanese Artists Turn Countries Into Anime Characters For 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Phillipines

In preparation for the 2020 Olympics, Japanese anime artists are busily competing to provide each country with its own representative anime warrior. So far, the Philippines have gotten the character voted the best.

Bored Panda

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This kind of thing has been done before, in Hetalia, a comic book manga that became a television anime series featuring the Allied and Axis Powers of WWII as teen-age characters.

07 Jun 2019

Kyoto’s Zen Cuisine

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Shiitakes and lily bulbs cloaked in yuba (tofu skin) and served in a kombu broth.

Alex Halberstadt in Saveur:

Writing about the food of Japanese monks and nuns for a magazine like this one presented a conceptual difficulty. From the Buddhist perspective, cooking is a form of spiritual practice that produces nourishment to prepare the body for hard work and meditation. Unlike, say, Memphis barbecue or the cuisine of Lyonnaise bouchons, shojin doesn’t have a whole lot to say on the subject of pleasure. Shojin has bigger fish to fry. Its goals are nothing less than permanent enlightenment, nirvana, the fundamental transformation of the human mind and society. It does not fit easily into the hedonistic, novelty-addled world of food journalism.

Before every other restaurant extolled the virtues of seasonal produce, there was shojin ryori, a Buddhist cuisine reimagined by monk chef Toshio Tanahashi.

I chanced upon my salvation, journalistically speaking, in the person of Toshio Tanahashi. He’d practiced the art of shojin as a Zen monk in a rural temple near Kyoto and then did something unprecedented—he opened a restaurant in Tokyo’s chic Omotesando neighborhood that presented vegan monastic cuisine in a fine-dining context. The restaurant, Gesshin Kyo, became both successful and influential. Reviewing it for the New York Times, author and culinary authority Elizabeth Andoh described it as a “secular space imbued with a spiritual respect for food.” It was a spiritual respect that nonetheless made room for distinctly un-Japanese elements like tomatoes, mangoes, and white bordeaux. Freed from temple kitchens and its role as nourishment, shojin dazzled Tanahashi’s diners with its unfamiliar and subtle beauty. The Zen monk had become a famous chef by reimagining monk food.

Tanahashi closed Gesshin Kyo after 15 years, in 2006. Along the way he wrote two books about shojin ryori and came to see it as a corrective to the world’s restaurant culture, which he believes to be addled with costly, scarce, and unhealthy ingredients. …

[S]hojin [is] world poised between the rigorous simplicity of spiritual practice and its often exquisite trappings. Consider the tools found in a shojin kitchen. On the day we met, Tanahashi brought me to Aritsugu, renowned as a shrine among the international brotherhood of knife fetishists. The family-owned shop has been in continuous operation since 1560 and once supplied swords to the Imperial House of Japan.

At the modern-day shop in Kyoto’s enclosed Nishiki Market, we shimmied past vitrines of eye-wateringly expensive sashimi blades to a back room, where a soft-spoken manager showed us the principal tools of the shojin chef. There was an adorably petite vegetable cleaver called a nakiri-bocho; a one-sided grater of tinned copper trimmed in magnolia wood and deer antler used for working with lotus root and wasabi; and a strainer-ricer made of the braided hairs of a horse’s tail bound with a band of cherry bark. These utensils, made by hand, were remarkably beautiful.

“Things that are made by humans for humans are good for the spirit,” Tanahashi declared. He explained that shojin kitchens forbid plastic and machinery. Taking care of one’s tools, he added, turning the cleaver in his hand, was in itself a form of Buddhist meditation.

Over the next several days, Tanahashi led me on a breakneck tour of shojin—not the grand theory behind it, but the myriad building blocks. He referred to it as my “education.” At an antique lacquerware shop called Uruwashiya, behind one of those dimly lit Kyoto storefronts that always look closed, Akemi Horiuchi, the elegant proprietor, showed us the most important dishes used in serving shojin—several attractively worn red bowls and a matching tray. Red is the auspicious color of the temples, she explained, and the tray’s raised edge indicates that it encloses a sacred space. Shojin must be served in handmade vessels, and few are as painstakingly handmade as these—delicately carved wood covered with layer upon layer of urushi lacquer, making the dishes supple, lightweight, and resilient. The lacquer on the bowls Horiuchi showed us had faded in places—a prized quality, she said—because they were made nearly 500 years ago, in Sen no Rikyu’s lifetime.

RTWT

03 May 2019

A Zen Death Poem

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Sixty-six times my eyes

have contemplated the ephemeral spectacle of autumn.

I’ve talked enough about the light

of the moon. Don’t ask me more.

Listen only to the voice of the pines and

of cedars when there is no longer a breath of wind.

The nun Ryōnen Gensō (1646-1711)

25 Apr 2019

Three Japanese Professional Soccer Players Take on One Hundred Children

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29 Jan 2019

Nuked Too Much or Not Enough?

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You take a culture with the keenest appreciation of impermanence, simplicity, and imperfection and a wistful love of Nature and you add Commerce and the influence of American popular culture, and you get this!

Here are 15:09 of Japanese commercials brimming with kawaii, moe, chibi and served up with the special kind of twistedness only the Japanese can manage.

HT: Vanderleun.

01 Jan 2019

Then and Now

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19 Nov 2018

A Scholar’s Rock

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Japan. Edo period.
1 1/2” – 3.8cm

A miniature Furuyaishi rock, the grey stone of the mountain riven by a wide white torrent and a narrow waterfall. With a hardwood stand and a box inscribed ‘Waterfall Rock’.

Brandt Asian Art

27 Sep 2018

Iowahawk Wins Again

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20 Aug 2018

Octopus Samurai Helmet

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Tako Kabuto, Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam.

26 May 2018

“A Long Way From Home”

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30 Mar 2018

The Immovable Heart

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20 Aug 2017

“Honoring Fallen Enemies”

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Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr., at Ricochet, has a little story that seems especially relevant these days. Alas! it’s the kind of thing that people on the Left will never understand.

In 1944, a 20-year-old U.S. Marine corporal named Marvin Strombo got separated from his unit on the island of Saipan. Making his way back toward the rally point, he stumbled across the supine body of a young Japanese soldier. The man had apparently been killed by the concussion from a mortar explosion: his body was completely intact, bearing no apparent wounds. The sword at his side marked him as an officer. And poking out from underneath his jacket Strombo could see a folded Japanese flag.

Strombo hesitated but then reached out and removed the flag. It was covered with Japanese calligraphy: good-luck messages and signatures from the young officer’s friends and family. Flags such as this were popular souvenirs among Allied troops, so Strombo knew that if he hadn’t taken it someone else would have. But Strombo made a silent vow: “I knew it meant a lot to him … I made myself promise him that one day, I would give back the flag after the war was over.” …

a few days ago, 93-year-old Marvin Strombo made the long journey to Higashishirakawa, where he met with the surviving family and friends of the young enemy soldier whose final resting place he had seen. He was able to bring them the closure of knowing where, when, and how Yasue died; and he was able to return to them the flag they had sent with Yasue when he’d gone off to war. “I had such a moment with your brother. I promised him one day I would return the flag to his family,” Strombo told them. “It took a long time, but I was able to bring the flag back to you, where it belongs.”

The Japanese were our enemies in World War II. And make no mistake: they were on the wrong side. Even the Japanese themselves know that today. Sadao Yasue was fighting for the wrong cause, defending a militaristic regime that was bent on conquest and domination of its neighbors, at the expense of its own populace. He was part of a military that, elsewhere in the same war, committed atrocities that are too horrible to contemplate.

But he was also a human being, a young man with a family and friends who loved him. People he left behind, people who had nothing to do with the war, except insofar as they suffered its miseries and the pain of his loss. Returning the flag to these people and honoring the sacrifice he made in no way undermines the outcome of the war, nor does it represent an endorsement of the evil for which he fought. It is nothing more and nothing less than an expression of human decency, a way of reaching out and acknowledging the pain of war.

In front of the courthouse at the center of my small North Carolina town is a statue of a Confederate soldier. Not a hero, not a leader, just a generic representation of the thousands of young men who went off to war and left grieving families behind. It is not an endorsement of slavery or a message of racism; it is nothing more and nothing less than a somber acknowledgement and reminder of the pain that war brought.

The next time I drive through town, I wonder if it will still be there.

RTWT

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